AMC's The Walking Dead is only two episodes into the second-half of the tenth season, and things have already shifted into overdrive (check out our review of "Stalker" here). Beta (Ryan Hurst) headed back to Whisperers' camp empty-handed, with Gamma (Thora Birch) heading off to Hilltop.
Meanwhile, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Alpha's (Samantha Morton) brutal fight nearly took both "generals" off the field – but with both recovered (and Alpha feeling "reborn"), things are about to get very ugly as "The Whisperer War" explodes as Alpha's horde starts its slow march to Hilltop.
Just a quick reminder… MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!… just in case the "subtle reminder" that follows wasn't clear enough…
Written by Julia Ruchman and Vivian Tse, and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis, "Morning Star" didn't disappoint when it came to what we were expecting after two episodes into the midseason return: things to start feeling dark, dire, and threatening. The Walking Dead has done an amazing job building up emotions for when "that" moment happens – think back to the episodes leading up to the confrontation with The Governor, for example.
That's what we get this week, with the show's camera lens pulled back to offer us a wider swath of "The Whisperer War" landscape – which we both liked and dreaded. After two episodes that were primarily one-story focused (but with important supporting details), getting a "smattering" turn helped catch us up with a number of familiar faces.
On the down side, it also has that feel of one of those "let's check in with everyone and get you feeling a certain way before offing people left and right" episodes – so we found everything everyone was saying as a sign they were going to die.
Here's a look at our takeaways from this week's episode, "Morning Star":
● Jeffrey Dean Morgan is playing Negan exactly the way he should be played at this point: as someone who's playing all sides – even his own. On one hand, he's whipping Alpha – then giving her what actually sounds like sage advice. But is he doing it to prove himself to Judith (Cailey Fleming) – or is he feeling "nostalgic" for his Saviors days? He goes along to Hilltop for the assault – but his reaction to Alpha choosing to go "scorched earth" had question marks bouncing around again.
● I am officially demanding better storylines for Rosita (Christian Serratos) moving forward. Last week's "Stalker" gave us a taste of the character's potential – more, please! I like the men that the show's had in her life when they're not in her life – Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Siddiq (Avi Nash) were all (to be blunt) raging d-bags when it came to her.
● Speaking of Eugene – his whole deal with "Stephanie" feels a little off, but I'm not sure why. Similar to what we said previously about Rosita, Eugene's better this season away from the radio. Now that said, this could all change when we get the "big reveal" (how funny would it be if it was Lauren Cohan's Maggie with a fake voice?) – but for now? We're reserving judgement. The Iron Maiden-"When The Wild Wind Blows" was a nice touch, though – but the whole "meeting in one week" thing" Eh.
● We said it before and we'll say it again: Reedus is more than earning that contract boost. His reaction to Judith reparing his vest was such a touching big brother/little sister moment that we actually got the jaw-shakes. Then we have the moment when he asks Judith to promise him to leave the fight and go with Ezekiel if the time comes – and that hug crushes our hearts. Pairing that with a long-awaited one-on-one with Ezekiel (Khary Payton) that found both men coming to a common respect and admiration, and you have some of Reedus' best work in seasons.
● There's something about that deal Daryl and Ezekiel made that has a dark cloud hovering over it.
● Props to Alpha's use of tree sap to start fires around Hilltop's perimeter – that was a serious "guerilla warfare" moves there, and was a wonderfully horrific "bookend" to the beginning of the episode when we see Alpha's folks collecting the sap.
● Melissa McBride has done everything she possibly can to get the show some serious Emmy attention – it's a shame that there seems to be an undercurrent of voters who still look their noses down at genre programming. That's a shame on a number of levels – with The Walking Dead, it deprives McBride a fair chance to be celebrated for her craft. Whether it's her extended time with Ezekiel or a brief exchange with Daryl to assess their status, McBride offers viewers a Carol who is on a path of self-destruction but also seems to be looking for a way out – she just doesn't know how.
● But the scene between Carol and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) is the one that stood out to me the most. Two people who have every reason in the world to hate each other – to be as far apart from each other as possible – find themselves having one of the most brutally honest heart-to-hearts in a very long time.
● Leaving our heroes stuck between a flaming "rock" and a "hard place" that consists of waves of walkers made for not only a great visual but also set-up a nice episode-to-episode cliffhanger for next week.
When AMC's The Walking Dead returns for its second-half of season 10, our group of survivors are trapped… some in the confines of a cave filled with walkers… others, in a spiral of suspicion and grief — all orchestrated at the hand of Alpha, who continues to prove the Whisperers are always watching and one step ahead of the communities. Through this conflict and all they've lost, a few still hold onto hope, especially Eugene, who believes the mysterious voice he spoke with on the radio may lead to their world getting bigger once again.
But with the Whisperer War upon them, the collective communities must come together and possibly sacrifice all they have to find a way to silence the Whispers once and for all. Otherwise, Alpha will ensure they face a certain doom.